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New Zealand women playwrights


The latest issue of the Playmarket magazine has an article by playwright Branwen Millar. There she is in the pic. (She also wrote one of the Short Film Fund films I wrote about the other day, and we both did the scriptwriting MA with the wonderful Ken Duncum at Victoria University's Institute of Modern Letters, but in different years, so I don't know her.)

In her article, Branwen starts: "As an emerging playwright, I'm excited by the huge talent and diversity of our writers. As a woman, I'm disheartened".

She acknowledges that she has "a massive amount of support for my writing" but is "at a loss when I look at the landscape I'm entering". She provides some grim statistics about women playwrights' representation in productions and awards and writes:
Where are the female voices in our theatres? Is it that men are better writers? Do men write faster and therefore have more plays? Receive more support? Are women one-hit wonders? Why do they stop writing?
This is so like the questions I have about women who write films. And the statistics surprise me, although I'd read some posts about women playwrights having problems in the States, on Women & Hollywood.

I'd thought that because it is so much cheaper to stage plays the "gender problem" doesn't exist for women playwrights here—I have a mate who writes film scripts and plays and talks about the advantages of the difference between a potential budget of hundreds of dollars rather than hundreds of thousands, or millions. I'd grouped plays with novels and poetry, where New Zealand women just do it if that's where their interest lies and there are few problems connecting with an audience.

Branwen Millar goes on:
And why is it important to have female playwrights? "This isn't the eighties," a friend said to me when I told her what I was writing, "feminism's done."
(Oh Yes! Almost exactly the response I've now heard many times when I've talked about my film statistics.) She continues:
Yeah right. I'm not arguing for women writers for equality's sake (though I could). I'd advocate for all writers to sit down and write good plays regardless of gender or anything else; this is about all people being deemed worthy of having a voice worth listening to. It's striving for the richest and most vibrant arts industry we can have, and that comes from a multitude of perspectives.
And she's curious to know more about what others think. What answers does anyone have, to her questions? This morning, as I work on another thesis chapter, I worry a little that even though I know more than I did, I have lots and lots of questions I still can't answer.

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